when i was in high school, i got a gig playing drums with my first “real” band…we had a van, a dedicated rehearsal space that had actually been a recording studio at one time, a soundman, and great players – the best i’d played with up until that time. everyone else in this band was twice my age, seasoned guys, and it was a blast. i learned a lot about arranging songs, and about playing what was appropriate, and about how keeping time was mandatory for drummers, and not an option. i’m sure that there are times when it totally sounded like neil peart playing in a top 40 band, because that’s where my head was at…but i caught on pretty quick.
but i started to notice stuff.
we were, at one point, doing “harden my heart” by quarterflash. and there’s an intro section with a sax melody, and then when the vocal starts, most of the instruments pull back and the vocal sings over just the rhythm section, for the most part, on the record. but we played it, and the guitars kept blarin’ away right on through the verses…competing with the vocal for attention.
something innate in my head told me even then that this was wrong.
i brought it up, at some point, mentioned that i didn’t hear any guitars on this particular passage of the record – and the response was, “well, what should we play, then?”
being the kid in the band, i didn’t dare answer correctly…i don’t remember if i even answered at all.
but the answer was….nothing. if there’s no part, then DON’T FUCKING PLAY ANYTHING.
this is a concept, though, that has evaded musicians of all ages, of all genres, of all levels of experience in situations that have cropped up in different areas of my life ever since. so very, very few guys really get it. The ones who do don’t seem to spend very much time on my level of the food chain.
so why, you might ask, am i still here?
there are a million potential answers to that question, but after a while, one stops asking and learns to either enjoy it down here, or they squirm out, or they kill themselves. i’ve largely opted for number one. i’ve squirmed just enough to see what it’s like further up the ladder, but i always seem to lose my grip and tumble back down to my home rung.
this hasn’t really been a source of great displeasure for me for a while…but one of the bands i play in has undergone some changes these past few months, and it’s making this thing with my ear a problem.
see, when we started out, we were all slackers, really…we’d go out and slam through songs, and it was all ok, whether we sucked or not…but as slacker players have been replaced by real pro guys, guys who have an intuition about their instrument, the one guy who has been a problem on this level has become more and more obvious. painfully so.
so, we’ve begun looking around for replacements. we all see the potential of this band, and we want to realize it. when 4 people are moving in one direction and the fifth is moving in another, it becomes visibly obvious that something is wrong, whether you can put your finger on it or not. and it’s been visibly obvious that our one dissenting slacker is neither motivated or interested in joining the rest of us on this path. thus the audition process.
and what can you say about that, really?
yesterday, we had the guy over who i really thought was going to be the one. we had been emailing back and forth for a week, talking about guitars, about music and musicians, and he felt like the perfect fit. how lucky can you get, i thought. but once the dust had settled yesterday, it was apparent that in his years, he had yet to learn the lesson that i already intrinsically knew way back in 1982, playing in my high school top 40 band.
if there’s no part, don’t play it.
i’m still bummin’. hoping the right guy turns up somewhere. effort has been made, but no one has turned up as of yet.
no one knows more than i do how arrogant this sounds, but if i could clone myself and replace him with a second Me, i’d do it in a heartbeat.
this saga is far from over…updates will follow.
i just want to close by saying that i think willy porters’ “falling forward” album is one of the most stone beautiful records of any era i think i’ve ever heard. i could put “infinity” on repeat and listen to it for weeks. i just hope that i don’t attach the crap going on in my life to it like i’ve done to other music in the past…christopher cross’ second album is forever bound to a girl i dated in wales. they exist as a common entity. one is not separable from the other.
but great music does that – it marries itself to something that you relate it to and becomes part of your personal fabric.
and what a fucked up tapestry i’ve become in close to forty years.